“Nothing has been more characteristic of current post-millennialism than its emphasis on the kingship of the ascended Christ; nothing fires the Postmil vision more than that reality. Yet it is just this reality that post-millennialism affectively compromises and, in part, even denies. Postmils especially will no doubt find this last statement startling, maybe even outrageous, so let me explain.
Nothing is more distinctive to the postmil vision than its expectation of promised “victory” for the church, a future “golden age,” before Christ’s return. That golden era is variously conceived; in its reconstructionist versions, for example, it is to be a period of global supremacy and control by Christians in every area of life. But all postmil constructions—past and present, and all of them marked (as postmil) in distinction from other eschatological viewpoints—have in common that the millennial “gold”/”victory” (1) is expected before Christ’s return and (2) up to the present time in the church’s history, apart from occasional anticipations, has remained entirely in the future.
Here, then, is where a problem—from the vantage point of New Testament teaching, a fundamental structural difficulty—begins to emerge. Emphasis on the golden era as being entirely future leaves the unmistakable impression that the church’s present (and past) is something other than golden and that, so far in its history, the church has been less than victorious. This impression is only reinforced when, typically in my experience, the anticipated glorious future is pictured just by contrasting it with what is alleged to be the churches presently dismal state (the angle of vision seldom seems to include much beyond the church scene in the United States!), usually with the added suggestion that those who do not embrace the postmil vision are “defeatists” and contribute at least to perpetuating the sad and unpromising status quo.
The New Testament, however, will not tolerate such a construction. If anything is basic (and I’m inclined to say, clear) in its eschatology, it is that the eschatological kingship of Christ begins already at his first coming culminating at his resurrection and ascension. “God has placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church” (Eph 1:22; cf. v. 20).
…In other terms, for the New Testament, the entire interadventual period, not just a closing episode, is the “golden age” of the church; that period and what transpires in it, as a whole, embodies the churches millennial “success” and ” victory.”
RICHARD B. GAFFIN, JR.| “Theonomy and Eschatology: Reflections On Postmillennialism” in William S. Barker and W. Robert Godfrey, ed. Theonomy: A Reformed Critique (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990), 202–03.
1.) It is true that Post-mills find Gaffin’s statement startling and outrageous, as well as humorous, but then we find most statements by Amillennialists to be startling, outrageous and strange. We find that to be the case because none of what Gaffin says represents our position. The above is a case of building a straw man and then proceeding to demolish what nobody believes.
2.) Gaffin affirms that Postmillennialism champions the Kingship of Christ but only does so while denying that Kingship at the same time. The problem with Gaffin’s observation here (and a problem, that Gaffin of all people should not make) is that Postmillennialism understands the hermeneutical dynamic in Scripture of the “already/now/not yet.” Postmills emphasize, as Gaffin rightly acknowledges the “kingship of the ascended Christ. Further, Gaffin is correct that “nothing fires the Postmil vision more than that reality.” This truth represents the reality that Christ has indeed already taken up His office of King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The Postmill understands that Christ has been inaugurated as the King of the Cosmos. This is the “already” and “now” of our eschatology. Unlike the Amillennialist Gaffin, the Postmil believes that this Kingship is not merely a spiritual Kingship but the Postmil believes that this Kingship is a reign that rules over every area of life.
However, the Postmil also understands that with the passage of time the already and now inaugurated Kingship of Jesus Christ is going from increasing consummation unto increasing consummation which each passing day. We understand, unlike the Amills, that the Kingship of Jesus Christ while already present has a “not yet” quality that takes time to demonstrate. Has Gaffin forgot the Kingdom parables?
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds[b] of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
Gaffin desires to indict the Postmillennialists because we understand this principle and he apparently does not?
3.) So, Gaffin is just in error when he says that for the Postmil the Kingship of Christ is entirely future. It is because we believe in the Present Kingship of Jesus Christ that we expect the future of that already present Kingship to be more and more glorious. However, for the Amillennialists, like Gaffin, the Kingship of Christ is a pretend/fantasy Kingship. The Kingship of Christ is exercised only in the Church realm. We can only see and can only expect to ever see the Kingship of Christ with spiritual eyes that see spiritual realities. In just such a manner the Amillennialist can retire from contending for the crown rights of Jesus Christ in every area of life, satisfying himself with the ability of his “spiritual” eyes to see “spiritual” realities that more often than not are not really there, except so as to satisfy the militant A-millennialists retreatist, defeatest, pietistic, and quietistic cowardice.
3.) So, the Postmil, contra Gaffin’s assertion is quite content in seeing the Kingdom present and growing now, while retaining the expectation that the full flowering of the already present Kingdom will go from fuller flowering unto fuller flowering. We Postmils, of course rejoice in the truth that even now;
“God has placed all things under his (Christ’s) feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church” (Eph 1:22; cf. v. 20).
And because we believe that is true the Postmils operate from that truth. Because Eph. 1:22 is true we work from the confidence of that truth unto seeing that truth progressively demonstrate its already current truthfulness. Because we believe the King currently reigns we lean into life living as if the King reigns. It is why we keep praying, apparently unlike the Amills, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.” Or has Gaffin dispensationalized that prayer since, in his world, the King and the Kingdom has already come and therefore we need not pray that any longer. Is Gaffin suggesting that that prayer was for them and not for us?
4.) As a Postmil, I have no problem affirming with Richard that;
the New Testament, the entire interadventual period, not just a closing episode, is the “golden age” of the church; that period and what transpires in it, as a whole, embodies the churches millennial “success” and ” victory.”
Postmils affirm that we are going from victory unto victory and success unto success. It’s just that Postmils don’t spiritualize the Kingdom so that it is always invisible and non-corporeal all of the time everywhere. Postmils, understand, unlike Amils that since the King now reigns there is work to be done in seeing that every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father.
Postmils see that happening in time and space (consider B. B. Warfield’s Eschatological Universalism) as the Holy Spirit makes it so the knowledge of the Lord covers the earth as the waters cover the sea whereas Amils like Gaffin, treasuring defeat and surrender, see this only happening with the cataclysmic event that is the return of Jesus Christ.
As a codicil here I will offer that there are many Amillennialists who call themselves “Optimistic Amillennialists.” I call these chaps my friends even if I can’t figure out how they get there. It is the militant Amillennialists who never met a Postmil they didn’t want to pulverize and mock that find my hackles getting raised.